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Random Candle Screen 


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Random Candle Screen 

Written By: Aram Bartholl 




Aluminum cans (16) 
beer/soda cans will do 

Cable connector (1) 

Machine screw (1) 

Cardboard (1) 

or, even better, some similar fireproof 


Translucent paper (1) 

/ used Inkjet backlight print film. Film, 

foil, or even glass will work. 


Tea light candles (16) 


The Chaos Computer Club's Blinkenlights project in 2001 — which turned an office building 
in Berlin's Alexanderplatz into the world's biggest interactive computer display — inspired 
me to think and work on low-tech analog and mechanical screens. 

Random Screen is a non-controllable, 4x4-pixel screen run by tea candles. Each pixel is a 

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Random Candle Screen 

5"x5" box made of cardboard, which is open at the back and closed with translucent film as 
a projection screen at the front. A modified beer or soda can is transformed into a kind of 
vent and driven by the rising heat from a tea candle, which also serves as a light source. A 
window is cut into the beer can, which casts the candlelight while turning at its individual 
frequency, like a lighthouse lantern. The brighter and bigger the candle flame, the faster the 
can turns to switch the designated pixel on and off. The light of each pixel fades smoothly in 
and out. 

• First of all, have a good time and 
drink the beer (or soda). 

• If you're planning to build several 
Random Screen pixels, it might be 
wise to invite some friends so that 
you don't get too wasted while 
preparing the materials. I used to 
store some beer cans in our shared 
office fridge, which is a very easy 
and quick way to get them emptied. 

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Random Candle Screen 

• Cut off the top and bottom of the beer can and shorten it to 5". 

# For 9-vent rotors, cut from the top in equal distances ^W into the can, at an angle of 12 
degrees, with shears or sharp scissors. 

• Punch a hole through each rotor near its top end, so that the tops of all rotors can be 
drawn together and a screw can pass up through the holes to hold them together. This part 
needs some patience, and be careful. 

• Lock the screw in place with a nut. 

• Caution: Watch your fingers! Aluminum cans have a very sharp edge when cut. Be 
particularly careful when gathering the rotors together. 

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Random Candle Screen 

• Bend a simple wire stand. The base should fit around the tea candle, and the other end 
should be bent in and up so that the can will hang over the middle of the candle. 

• Attach a needle to the end with the cable connector, checking to be sure that the pinwheel 
can spin easily. 

• Tip: If your can doesn't hang straight, add some of the bits you cut out as 
counterweights. Feel free to move the materials around to make for the best fit and 
to maximize balance and spin. 

Cut a 2"x2" window in this modified can and cut in some zigzags to make the light fade in 
and out smoothly. 

Run a test and place a tea candle inside to see if the can hangs straight. Make sure that 
the can is able to turn freely. You might have to work and bend the material a little bit. 

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Random Candle Screen 

• Cut and/or fold the cardboard to 
build a 5"x5" pixel box 7" deep. 

• In order not to cast shadows or any 
movement onto the front pixel 
screen, make a middle wall inside 
the box to separate the back 
candle space 4" from the front 
projection space, leaving 3". A 
2"x2" window covered with the 
translucent film diffuses the 
passing light from the candle onto 
the main front projection screen. 

• Place the stand plus modified beer 
can in the open back of the box. 
Light the candle to see if everything 

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Random Candle Screen 

• If you built more than one pixel, you can just stack them on top of each other. 

• Of course it is also possible to build a 9- or 16-pixel Random Screen in one piece, 
but I like to make each pixel separately as a module you can play with. 


• A dark room is needed to obtain satisfying results. Light all the candles and watch your 
work of art flicker in the dark. 

• WARNING: A 16-pixel Random Screen produces quite a bit of heat, so be careful 
with flammable materials and never leave it unattended. Don't burn your house 

• Resources: 

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Random Candle Screen 

This project first appeared in CRAFT Volume 01 , page 150. 

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This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -03 1 2:20:1 6 AM. 

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